Happy Waitangi Day. Hope you have something relaxing planned.
Is there any other country in the world with such a complex and controversial national holiday? Right from the start the events surrounding Waitangi Day have been as contentious and as central to our national character as Te Tiriti itself. The day serves as an annual barometer of the state of Maori political opinion, and their relationship with the government of the day.
Interesting then to compare this year with the last. Last year Key was welcomed without incident. The event was comparatively low key, Key’s speech focused on “nationhood” and “togetherness”. Stuff reported “Few grievances amid day of treaty celebrations”.
At time of writing Waitangi Day 2011 is hardly under way, but early indications from the welcome yesterday are that it is likely to be more eventful:
Tempers simmer ahead of Waitangi Day
The temperature soared and tempers simmered at Waitangi Day celebrations in the Far North today. Celebrations got off to a fiery start when Prime Minister John Key was met with protests labelling him “the enemy” as he arrived at Te Tii Marae this morning.
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, who is embroiled in an internal party dispute with Hone Harawira, also copped flak from some hecklers who labelled him a traitor who was “kissing John Key’s ass”. Key admitted this afternoon that the tension at Waitangi had been “heightened this year”.
In other coverage:
Key shrugs off Waitangi heckling
Prime Minister John Key has shrugged off abuse levelled at him during his arrival at Waitangi today, saying that there are always tensions. Key was heckled as he made his way into the meeting house at Waitangi this morning.
Wikitana Popata yelled at the Key through a loud hailer before being subdued by security staff. Popata yelled “you stole our land, you killed our people” and said the “enemy was amongst us”. Key acknowledged that there was some tension during his arrival, but appeared unfazed by the comments, saying that he has “been called worse.” …
Key played down tensions saying that friction within the Maori Party may have contributed to the atmosphere. “I’ve come to learn that that there will always be a range of views up here. This time there was a bit more tension and I think that reflects that there is tension between Hone Harawira and the Maori Party.”
That tension is largely over the Maori Party’s support for the National led government but Key argues it better than being in opposition … Key said Treaty settlements were important but he cautioned against a “grievance based rearward looking” approach. …
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples came under fire while speaking on the lower marae. Sharples was subjected to shouts of “Kupapa” which can be translated as traitor.
Clearly dissatisfaction with the Maori Party, and its support for a government with policies that actively damage low income New Zealand, is starting to boil over. Phil Goff sums up:
Goff said Labour’s relationship with Maori is strong, but that the divisions in New Zealand were centred over rich and poor. “The division today is between those that are rich and privileged and becoming even wealthier and the rest of New Zealand being left behind.
With Hone Harawira serving as a lightening rod, the Maori Party can’t keep a lid on the tensions generated by its support for National much longer. We live in interesting times. With warnings of gang unrest, let’s hope the rest of Watangi Day passes without incident.